SEOUL Jan 20 South Korea is stepping up efforts
to prevent the spread of bird flu ahead of the Lunar New Year
holidays, after migratory birds were found to be infected with
the same strain of the virus that hit poultry farms last week.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs said in
a statement on Monday that it suspects a flock of migratory
birds found dead last week brought the latest outbreak of the
H5N8 strain of bird flu.
Since the virus hit three farms in the southwestern part of
the country last week, about 90,000 poultry have been culled
from South Korea's population of 160 million farm birds as of
Saturday, according to ministry data.
Asia's fourth-largest economy has had four outbreaks of bird
flu viruses in the past 10 years. The most recent, in 2011, led
to a cull of more than 3 million poultry.
The government has issued a movement control order for
livestock and related transport in North and South Jeolla
provinces in the southwestern part of the country, and raised
its bird flu warning level to 'alert' from 'caution' ahead of
next week's Lunar New Year holiday.
The farms hit last week were in North Jeolla province. No
human infection has been reported in the most recent outbreak.
The first case of H5N8 bird flu was discovered last Friday
at a duck farm in the county of Gochang, about 300 kilometres
(186 miles) from Seoul. Another two farms were hit in the nearby
county of Buan, some 240 km from Seoul.
The H5N8 strain was first identified in a 2010 case reported
in China and is similar to the H5N1 type.
In Asia, around 150 people in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
have been infected by a new H759 strain of bird flu since it
emerged in China last year, claiming at least 46 lives.
(Reporting By Jane Chung; Editing by Tom Hogue)